“Mary will share her faith with you. Her faith on earth was stronger than that of all the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Saints” (TD, no. 214).
In the modern world we see people imitating those whom they love so much. They try to imitate the styles and mannerisms of film stars, cricket stars etc. There is another star whom we must imitate that is the Star of The Sea. As good Christians and as good religious we need to love and admire Mary, for she is our heavenly Mother. The first and foremost virtue we find in Mary is her faith. “It is the foundation of all other virtues.” Jesus, said to Thomas “Blessed is he who believes without seeing” (Jn 20:29). When the angel announced that Mary would bear a son, she did not understand how it was p o s s i b l e , yet she believed. In the letter to Hebrews we read: “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb 11:6). During the Holy Mass for the opening of the Year of Faith in Saint Peter’s square on 11th October 2012 Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said “The more we reflect on our faith, the more we respect it, and the more we respect it, the more we desire to live and share it.” What he said is very significant in our life. In this computer age we have made such a vast strides in technology that we have become self-sufficient and sophisticated. God has become irrelevant in the lives of many people, who put their faith in their own creativity and in hedonistic culture. People are so engrossed in a struggle for success, power and wealth therefore they have little time for God. In this situation, Mary’s example of faith guides us how we have to follow in the present day crisis in faith. Faith is total trust in someone, and this means readiness to acknowledge all the surprises that can come from God, who never ceases to stimulate and enlighten faith for the sake of continual movement forward. The believer is ‘built’ gradually and advances by the responses given to God, who calls.
Faith in the Old Testament
Gen 15:6 Speaks about Abraham’s faith, Abraham believed the Lord. God responds to his need and promises him descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven. On hearing God’s promise Abraham immediately believed God. “Abraham just fixed his heart on God.” Abraham does not give just a mental response but a verbal, confessional statement. Abraham is a model of faith for all of his descendants and for us to imitate. Whatever be our circumstances, we must have faith in God.
Faith in the New Testament
Mary said to the angel of the Lord, ‘How’ can this happen to me since I am a Virgin? It was a spontaneous question which was raised by Mary at the time of annunciation. How calculative we are in taking up a new task? How often we talk about risk? It happens very often that we wait for the answer to the questions, how can this happen to me? One thing we should know, that the one who has called us will strengthen us (1 Pet 5:10). Without reflecting the power of God we say often ‘I am poor’ ‘I have no ability’ and ‘my personality is not attractive’ etc. In all these limitations we commit a grave mistake of undermining the creations of God. When we reflect the life of Mary we see in her life the complete faith and total trust in God. “Mary’s faith and trust in God are outstanding.” That’s why she said “behold the hand maid of the Lord; Let it be done according to your will. “ Her whole person, her bodily and spiritual faculties were all at the disposal of the Almighty.” Like Mary we too are called to have deeper faith in God in all the circumstances of our life.
- Characteristics of Mary’s Faith
- Mary’s Personal act of Faith: At the time of annunciation Mary was called to make an act of personal faith. She was a young virgin betrothed to Joseph. God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary and asked her consent to be part of the divine plan. She responded to it with a personal act of Faith. “Mary’s positive response was an act of obedience.” St. Montfort intends the same when he calls Mary the “Faithful, Virgin Par Excellence.” Here I would like to compare Mary to Abraham. Abraham is our father in faith who sired the people of God, the people of Israel and Mary is our mother in faith who gave birth to Jesus, who brought the people to God.
- Mary’s Faith is a Grace: “Grace is the meeting ground between the creatures and the creator.” Grace according to the Bible is a special gift from God. Pope John Paul II called “Mary as full of grace not with the earthly name Mary.” The grace of faith made Mary the new Eve. If Eve (and Adam) had received the graces of faith they would have been obedient to God’s will. Where Eve failed Mary succeeded. Mary allowed the grace of faith to help her hear and obey the Word of the Lord.
- Mary’s Faith is Free: The announcement commenced with these words to Mary, “Be without fear.” Mary exercised her faith freely. The angel Gabriel did not threaten her at the time of annunciation. He asked her but did not order her; at the same time the angel knew that Mary was a responsible woman.
- Mary’s Faith is Full of Conviction: Her faith when put to the test always showed itself strong and generous. “Her faith was like a rock in the midst of the sea, which even in storms remains unmoved.” The gospels have several accounts of a scene that seems to divert attention from Mary and even diminish her role. Take for example while Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowed called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts which you nursed.” Jesus replied “Rather, blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it” (Lk 11: 27-28). We have another example when Mary and the family standing at the edge of the crowd and wanting to meet him, Jesus stretched out his hands and said, “Here are my mothers and my brothers for whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother, ( Mk 3:34). “ Her faith remained unshaken when her Son answered the one who told him that His Mother and His brothers wanted a word with Him.”
- Mary’s Faith is Nourished by the Message of Salvation: Here I would like to give examples from the Gospel of St Luke, where her faith was nourished with the message of salvation. First of all, at the time of annunciation her faith was nurtured. Secondly when the shepherds came to adore Jesus they arrived with the message of the angel, “I am bringing to you Good News of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah and the Lord, (Lk 2:10-11). Thirdly when Prophetess Anna saw the child, she embraced them and praised God for their child.
- Mary’s Faith at Calvary: On Calvary Jesus entrusted a new motherhood to Mary, He said “Woman behold your Son!” (Jn 19: 26). The setting for these words at the foot of the Cross is like the reading of a will. When this motherhood was proclaimed, it was in regard to a ‘priest’ the beloved disciple. With the other apostles he belonged to the group of the first priests, now at Mary’s side he replaced the supreme priest who was leaving the world.” Jesus said to John “Behold your mother,” (Jn 19: 27). “To the beloved disciple He entrusted the task of caring for Mary as his own mother, of loving her, venerating her and protecting her for the remaining years of her life.” Mary’s salvation process began at Cana and had reached extraordinary fulfillment at the Cross. The two settings Cana and the Calvary are like an altarpiece, twin works that have a unified message. Cana invites us to turn to Mary as our intercessor and Calvary moves us to invoke her as our mother.
- Mary’s Faith is Ecclesial and Communal: At Pentecost the Church began its pilgrimage of faith. Mary had already begun her pilgrimage of faith at the annunciation. She had gone ahead of the Church in her faith journey. At Pentecost she was not apart from the Church but in its very midst in communion with the members. Her faith was communal as well as personal. Mary’s faith had never failed. “The Apostle Peter doubted, the Apostle Thomas doubted and many others doubted but Mary did not doubt.” At Calvary she was like Abraham who believed hoping against hope. At Pentecost her faith was fulfilled as she stood with the disciples as the first exceptional witness to Christ. Mary not only belongs to the Church but also she is in communion with us.
Mary is showing us to live by faith in God and to collaborate with God’s designs. She is human like us and experienced hardships we encounter in our life. “If we follow the footsteps of Mary from the moment of her annunciation onward, we discover that her life was filled with difficulties and trials. She lovingly accepted these as a part of her vocation.” Above all she took to heart Jesus’ mandate “He is your Son,” and so she continues in heaven. Let us go to Mary our Mother with great faith, I am very sure by internalizing and personalizing the faith of Mary we may discern what the Lord asks of us in our ministry. I would like to conclude with the words of Pope John Paul II who reminds us that “Faith is strengthened when it is given to others.” Let us come forward to offer this faith to this world through our mission.
Fr. Selva Kumar SMM